Baseball

High school baseball: Hampshire enters Class 4A state tournament on improbable run

No player better exemplifies Hampshire in the baseball postseason than senior Matt Jachec.

Jachec is cool, unflappable. In the tightest of situations, he will flash a sort of “I got this” smile toward the dugout.

“This is what I live for,” Jachec said after the Whip-Purs beat Barrington, 3-0, in 11 innings in their Class 4A McHenry Sectional semifinal. “I love this.”

As a team, Hampshire is following its leader. The Whips play loose as a team, unfazed as the stakes get bigger with each step further into the tournament.

“[Jachec] has fun,” Whips coach Frank Simoncelli said. “In tough situations, he’s smiling, and I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll roll with that.’ ”

Hampshire (22-14) meets Edwardsville (35-5) at 5 p.m. Friday in the second Class 4A state tournament semifinal at DuPage Medical Group Field, formerly Joliet Route 66 Stadium. St. Charles North (28-10) faces Chicago St. Rita (34-6) in the first semifinal at 3 p.m.

Jachec, who plays third base when he isn't pitching, threw a gem against Oak Park-River Forest on Monday, a 4-0 win in the Schaumburg Supersectional No. 1. He threw 79 pitches, so he is not available until Saturday for the championship or third-place game.

The Whips will lean on Logan Nespor (6-2, 2.77 ERA, 39 strikeouts in 53 innings) against the Tigers. Edwardsville likely will throw Grant Schaefer (7-1, 1.67, 32 strikeouts in 46 innings).

Hampshire finished sixth in the Fox Valley Conference, a league that produced 2017 4A state champion Crystal Lake South and 2018 4A runner-up Huntley. The Whips have put everything together at the right time.

“It feels awesome. Surreal,” Jachec said. “Nobody expected us to come this far. It’s a dream come true.”

Jachec (.381, four homers, 29 RBIs) and shortstop Gavin Kriegel (.374, four homers, 31 RBIs) have produced in the third and fourth spots of the batting order. Leadoff man Andy Krajecki (.304), No. 2 batter Nick Sladek (.361) and No. 5 batter Caden Pyszka (.317) all are hitting higher than .300.

The Whips also are playing their best in the field in the postseason.

“We’re going to keep going,” Kriegel said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see us in the championship game.”

Edwardsville was runner-up to South two years ago. The Tigers scored twice in the seventh inning of Monday’s Lincoln Land Supersectional in Springfield to beat Marist, 6-5.

Junior Drake Westcott, a Louisville commit, homered in the state title game against South in 2017 and is hitting .390 with nine homers and 38 RBIs. Hayden Moore (.391, four homers, 26 RBIs), Max Ringering (.358, four homers 32 RBIs) and Joe Copeland (.415, two homers, 22 RBIs) are the Tigers’ other top hitters.

Edwardsville may have expected to end its season in Joliet, whereas Hampshire did not. However, Simoncelli scheduled the Whips’ opener against Conant at DuPage Medical Group Field and told the players they would start and end their season there.

“I never thought in my life we’d actually make it this far,” Pyszka said. “It feels amazing.”

Class 4A State Tournament

At DuPage Medical Group Field, Joliet

Friday

Semifinal 1: St. Charles North vs. St. Rita, 3 p.m.

Semifinal 2: Hampshire vs. Edwardsville, 5 p.m.

Saturday

Third place: Loser Semifinal 1 vs. Loser Semifinal 2, 3 p.m.

Championship: Winner Semifinal 1 vs. Winner Semifinal 2, 5 p.m.

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